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Supervisors advertise 92.5-cent tax rate

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday night (Feb. 22) to advertise a 2018 real property tax rate of 92.5 cents per $100 valuation.

Supervisors Mike Sheridan, Mozell Booker and Tony O’Brien supported the rate. Supervisors Trish Eager and Don Weaver dissented.

Currently the equalized tax rate is 88.2 cents. If supervisors approve 92.5 cents, taxes will rise by 4.9 percent.

Supervisors must advertise a tax rate before making a final decision so that the public has ample time to comment. By law, they can lower the tax rate from the amount they advertised but cannot raise it without restarting the advertising process.

“You don’t think that there’s a way to cut some of this stuff in the budget?” Eager asked County Administrator Steve Nichols during the discussion.

“The short answer is no,” Nichols said. “The operating budget is so tight and lean across departments… Even if you cut 10 percent of everybody’s operating budget, except the schools, that’s only $120,000. So you’re not even getting half a penny on that.”

An uptick of one penny in the real property tax rate generates $293,000 for the county.

“You can direct me any way you want, but do I think you can comfortably go down below 91.5? No. This year I don’t,” said Nichols.

“All the other counties around us are lower right now,” Eager said.

“We don’t have any other forms of revenue,” said O’Brien, referring to alternate taxes such as a meals tax or business, professional and occupational license (BPOL) tax.

“We’re working on it,” said Eager.

“Other counties did the right things [in years past] – we didn’t,” said O’Brien. “But to sit there and say ‘woe is us’ because our rate is higher and theirs is lower – we didn’t do the right things.”

“We need to concentrate on now,” said Sheridan. “We’re trying to work in the right direction.”

“We have to understand the past so that we can understand where we are at the present,” said Booker.

Booker and O’Brien suggested advertising a rate of 92.5 cents. Eager disagreed, saying she preferred the rate of 91.5 cents in Nichols’ recommended budget.

“With no room for wiggle?” asked Sheridan. “This is not set in stone that we’re making it 92 or 92.5.”

Setting the advertised rate higher than absolutely necessary “will cover potential things that you and I don’t know about today,” said Nichols. “I know it’s difficult to put a high rate in the paper… But I would like you to advertise a little level of flexibility.”

After Sheridan voiced his support for a rate of 92.5 cents, supervisors took a vote. The 92.5-cent rate passed 3-2.

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt a final tax rate and budget on April 12.